AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Guys and Dolls
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Dir)
Release Date:   Nov 1955
Premiere Information:   World premiere in New York: 3 Nov 1955; Los Angeles premiere: 22 Nov 1955
Production Date:   14 Mar--9 Jul 1955
Duration (in mins):   148-150
Duration (in feet):   13,405
Duration (in reels):   20
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Cast:   Marlon Brando (Sky Masterson)  
    Jean Simmons ([Sergeant] Sarah Brown)  
    Frank Sinatra (Nathan Detroit)  
    Vivian Blaine (Miss Adelaide)  
    Robert Keith (Lt. Brannigan)  
    Stubby Kaye (Nicely-Nicely Johnson)  
    B. S. Pully (Big Jule)  
    Johnny Silver (Benny Southstreet)  
    Sheldon Leonard (Harry the Horse)  
    Dan Dayton (Rusty Charlies)  
    George E. Stone (Society Max)  
    Regis Toomey (Arvid Abernathy)  
    Kathryn Givney (General Cartwright)  
    Veda Ann Borg (Laverne)  
    Mary Alan Hokanson (Agatha)  
    Joe McTurk (Angie the Ox)  
    Kay Kuter (Calvin)  
    Stapleton Kent (Mission member)  
    Renee Renor (Cuban singer)  
  And The Goldwyn Girls:    
    Larri Thomas    
    Madelyn Darrow    
    June Kirby    
    Barbara Brent    
    Pat Sheehan    
  And Jann Darlyn    
    Harry Tyler (Waiter at Mindy's)  
    Earle Hodgins (Pitchman)  
    Sandra Warner (Twin)  
    Sonia Warner (Twin)  
    Matt Murphy (Prizefighter on street)  
    Adolph Faylauer (Tourist with camera)  
    John Indrisano (Louie, gambler at prayer meeting)  
    Rueben De Fuentes Orchestra    

Summary: Nathan Detroit, the financially strapped organizer of the oldest, established, permanent, floating crap game in New York, is trying to find a new venue, despite the scrutiny of police lieutenant Brannigan, who is determined to stop it once and for all. Nathan and his cohorts, Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet, are equally determined to get the game up and running again. Because of the “heat” from Brannigan, Nathan’s only option for the site is the Biltmore Garage, whose owner is demanding a $1,000 advance. Nathan, who is so broke that he cannot afford to buy an anniversary gift for Miss Adelaide, his fiancée of fourteen years, sees a way out of his predicament when he hears that Sky Masterson, a gambler noted for making large and unusual bets, is having lunch in nearby Mindy’s restaurant. After Nathan fails to entice Sky to bet on whether or not Mindy's sold more cheesecake or strudel the day before, he gets an idea when Sky boasts that he could take any woman he wanted with him to Havana the next day. Seeing the Save-A-Soul Mission band march by, Nathan bets Sky $1,000 that he will not be able to take the mission's leader, Sergeant Sarah Brown. Although Sky is chagrined that he has fallen for a "sucker bet," he goes to the mission and announces to Sarah and her uncle, Arvid Abernathy, that he is a sinner who wants to reform. She is attracted to Sky, but suspicious of his motives and not impressed by his ability to quote the Bible. Learning that the mission is having trouble attracting sinners, he gives Sarah his marker to deliver twelve bona fide sinners at their midnight prayer meeting in two days if she will go to dinner with him the next night. Sarah declines, but Sky refuses to take back his marker and tells her that he will pick her up at noon--because his favorite restaurant is in Havana. She assures him that she is only interested in “upright squares” but momentarily responds when he kisses her. That night, at the Hot Box Club, Adelaide, the club’s star performer, tells Nathan that she will be getting a raise next week and will finally earn enough money for them to get married. Adelaide pressures Nathan with the news that her mother thinks they have been married for years and have five children. Just then Laverne, one of the club’s dancers, chastises Nathan for luring her boyfriend into his crap game. Adelaide realizes that he again has gone back on his promise to give up the game and screams at him to get out. After Nathan leaves, Adelaide, who has been suffering from a chronic cold, reads a book on psychology that describes her symptoms as psychosomatic reactions to her uncertainty about Nathan. The next day, General Cartwright, Sarah’s supervisor, tells her that their organization will have to close the New York branch because it has not attracted any sinners. Just then Sky arrives at the mission and asks Cartwright to give Sarah thirty-six hours to prove that the mission is a success. With Arvid’s encouragement, Sarah looks at Sky’s marker, and tells Cartwight she can guarantee that at least twelve sinners will be at the midnight prayer meeting the next night. In Havana, Sarah’s prim demeanor is overcome after Sky orders her several milk drinks liberally flavored with rum. At a nightclub, she and Sky talk about love and soon begin to kiss. At another club, when a Cuban woman flirts with Sky and takes him onto the dance floor, she and Sarah start a fight that turns into a huge brawl. Later, when Sarah is sober, she admits to having fun, and after he tells her about the bet, says she does not mind. They arrive back in New York just before dawn, and as they near the mission, they hear police sirens. Nicely-Nicely, who has been dozing across the street, rushes into the mission and alerts dozens of gamblers, who pour out of the mission’s back room, narrowly evading Brannigan and the police. An angry Brannigan accuses Sarah of knowing about the game. Although Sarah is incorrect in assuming that Sky is involved, he refuses to deny it. The next night, Sky goes to the Hot Box and sees Nicely-Nicely, who laments that Nathan has asked him to tell Adelaide that the elopement they planned is off. Sky volunteers to tell Adelaide, who knows Nathan is not coming because of a crap game. Sky tries to be sympathetic to her but leaves when she admonishes that he will know how bad she feels when someday he falls in love with the wrong person. At the mission, Arvid tries to convince Sarah that Sky had nothing to do with the crap game, but she admits that she was more worried thinking that someday it would be Sky running from the police. Just then, Sky and Nicely-Nicely arrive at the mission and remind her of the marker. She tells Sky that they are now even and leaves, but Arvid, knowing that Sarah is in love with Sky, tells him that he must make good on the marker or everyone in town will know he is a welsher. Meanwhile, in the city sewer, the crap game has been going on for twenty-four hours. Nathan and his friends want to quit, but Big Jule, a notorious hoodlum from Detroit, intimidates them and insists on playing with his own dice until he wins back his $25,000 loss. When Nathan sees that the dice have no spots, Big Jule claims he "knows" where the spots are and wins back everything, even Nathan’s commission. Now Sky arrives and, after punching Big Jule and taking his gun, promises to do one roll of the dice betting all of the money against everyone coming to the midnight prayer meeting. He wins, and the men all go toward the mission. On the way, Nathan run into Adelaide at Mindy’s. He assures her he loves her, but when he says he cannot elope right now and leaves, she sneezes and sobs. At midnight, Sarah tells Cartwright that she has failed, just before a large number of “sinners” arrive with Sky. He curtly asks Sarah for his marker and leaves after asking Nathan to keep the markers from the others during the prayer meeting. As Cartwright asks for testimony about their sins, the men reluctantly talk about the crap game until Nicely-Nicely stands up and expresses true conversion. When Brannigan arrives at the mission, he tells Cartwright that there had been a crap game at the mission the night before, but Sarah lies by saying it never happened. Nathan then privately tells Sarah about the $1,000 bet with Sky. When Nathan relates that Sky paid the bet after saying that Sarah did not go to Havana, she runs after Sky. Soon Times Square is decorated for a double wedding as Adelaide marries Nathan and Sarah marries Sky. 

Production Company: Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc.  
  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Dir)
  Arthur S. Black Jr. (Asst dir)
  Flo O'Neill (Dial dir)
  Edward Mull (2d asst dir)
  Charles O'Malley (2d asst dir)
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn (Pres)
  Samuel Goldwyn (Prod)
Writer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Wrt for the screen by)
Photography: Harry Stradling (Dir of photog)
  Harry Stradling, Jr. (Cam op)
Art Direction: Oliver Smith (Prod des)
  Joseph Wright (Art dir)
Film Editor: Daniel Mandell (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Howard Bristol (Set dec)
  R. L. Grosh and Sons Scenic Studio (Set)
Costumes: Irene Sharaff (Cost des)
Music: Jay Blackton (Mus supv and cond)
  Cyril J. Mockridge (Background mus adpt)
  Herbert Spencer (Background mus collaborated with)
  Skip Martin (Orch)
  Alexander Courage (Orch)
  Nelson Riddle (Orch)
  Al Sendrey (Orch)
  Leon Cepparo (Singer voice coach)
Sound: Fred Lau (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
  Vinton Vernon (Sd)
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe (Spec eff photog)
Dance: Michael Kidd (Dances and mus numbers staged by)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup)
  Annabell (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Gus Schroeder (Prod mgr)
  Howard Dietz (Unit pub)
  Howard Strickling (Pub for M-G-M)
  John Dutton (Scr supv)
Stand In: Gil Perkins (Stunts)
  George Robotham (Stunts)
  Harvey Parry (Stunts)
  John Daheim (Stunts)
  Eddie Saenz (Stunts)
  Dick Crockett (Stunts)
  Paul Baxley (Stunts)
  Larry Duran (Stunts)
  Suzanne Ridgeway (Stunts)
  Lila Finn (Stunts)
  Helen Endicott (Stunts)
  Polly Burson (Stunts)
  Mary Ann Hawkins (Stunts)
Color Personnel: Alvord L. Eiseman (Col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs: "Fugue for Tinhorns," "Follow the Fold," "The Oldest Established," "I'll Know," "Pet Me, Poppa," "Adelaide's Lament," "Guys and Dolls," "Adelaide," "If I Were a Bell," "A Woman in Love," "Take Back Your Mink," "Luck Be a Lady," "Sue Me" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," music and lyrics by Frank Loesser.
Composer: Frank Loesser
Source Text: Based on the musical Guys and Dolls , book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, produced on the stage by Cy Feuer and Ernest H. Martin (New York, 24 Nov 1950), which was based on the short story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" by Damon Runyon in Collier's (28 Jan 1933).
Authors: Abe Burrows
  Jo Swerling
  Frank Loesser
  Damon Runyon
  Cy Feuer
  Ernest H. Martin

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc. 7/11/1955 dd/mm/yyyy LP5819 Yes

PCA NO: 17617
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Sound System
  col: Eastman Color
  Widescreen/ratio: CinemaScope

 
Genre: Musical
  Romantic comedy
Sub-Genre: Gambling
 
 
Subjects (Major): Financial crisis
  Gamblers
  New York City
  Reformers
  Romance
  Wagers
 
Subjects (Minor): Bands (Music)
  Barbers and barbershops
  Bars
  Bible
  Cheesecake
  Craps (Game)
  Criminals
  Deception
  Drunkenness
  Engagements
  Entertainers
  Fistfights
  Gangsters
  Havana (Cuba)
  Head colds
  Missions
  Nightclubs
  Police
  Police raids
  Psychosomatic illness
  Restaurants
  Uncles
  Weddings

Note: Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s onscreen credits reads, “Written for the screen and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.” The opening and ending cast credits differ slightly in order. Damon Runyon's "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" was later included in his short story collection Guys and Dolls (New York, 1931). Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls was a hit musical that ran over 1,200 performances after its 24 Nov 1950 Broadway opening, closing three years later on 28 Nov 1953. In addition to the original Broadway show, which starred Robert Alda as "Sky Masterson," the play was successful on the London stage and in a number of touring road companies throughout North America. According to the film’s pressbook, the play grossed over $13,000,000 in the United States and $3,000,000 in Great Britain. Vivian Blaine, Stubby Kaye, Johnny Silver and B. S. Pully recreated their Broadway roles for the film. Choreographer Michael Kidd created the dance numbers for both the play and the film.
       Contemporary news items, studio press materials and feature articles in magazines provide the following information on the production: In Jul 1952, a LAEx article indicated that Paramount Pictures, which owned the rights to the original Damon Runyon short story on which the Broadway musical was based, was to produce a film adaptation to star Bob Hope as "Nathan Detroit" and Bing Crosby as Masterson. The article also mentioned that the studio had briefly considered Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis for the leads.
       According to DV and Var news items in late Jan 1954, producer William Goetz acquired the rights to the play for a fee of $300,000, plus a percentage of the film's gross after it reached $4,000,000 in domestic distribution. At that time, the film was to be the first of three Goetz productions for Columbia Pictures. By early Mar 1954, news items in HR and DV announced that Samuel Goldwyn was the top bidder for the rights, which he bought for $1,000,000 against ten percent of the picture's gross. That figure, which was widely reported in trade publications and confirmed in the film's pressbook, was the highest price paid to that time for motion picture rights.
       It has not been determined at what point Goetz was no longer involved in the project, although a 14 Mar 1954 LAT article reported that Goldwyn “had out bidden all competitors, including William Goetz, who, apparently, reported acquisition of the rights prematurely.” News items in Feb and Mar 1955 indicated that Goldwyn had been negotiating with both Paramount and M-G-M on distribution rights to the film, and would shoot the picture in the VistaVision widescreen process if Paramount was selected, but CinemaScope if M-G-M.
       A few days after a 3 Mar 1955 HR news item noted that Twentieth Century-Fox had agreed to allow Goldwyn to use CinemaScope lenses for the film, a NYT article announced that Goldwyn planned to release Guys and Dolls under the M-G-M banner, his first, and only, association with that company since the 1924 merger of Metro Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Pictures with the old Goldwyn Company. The article also noted that Goldwyn would finance the film's $5,000,000 budget himself. HR and Wall Street Journal articles on 9 Mar 1955 noted that the distribution deal would be an 80-20 split favoring Goldwyn. For the previous fifteen years, Goldwyn had released his films through RKO Radio Pictures, and his last production, Porgy and Bess (see below), was released through Columbia.
       Goldwyn announced the casting of Marlon Brando on 1 Aug 1954 and Jean Simmons on 21 Sep 1954. At that time, according to feature articles, it was assumed by many that the “non-singer” actors would have their voices dubbed for the film. In a modern television interview, Simmons stated that she and Brando also assumed they would be dubbed but were told by Goldwyn that, although they did not have good voices, they were "real." According to press materials, it was not revealed to the public until shortly before the film opened that Brando would do his own singing. Although some reviews commented on Brando's lack of singing expertise, most found his and Simmons’ voices acceptable. In SatRev , Hollis Alpert stated an opinion echoed by many critics: “…Brando can’t really sing. But he has moments when he almost convinces you he that can…Simmons, on the other hand, can almost sing. She has a clear likable voice…”
       The long production schedule of the film ran from 14 Mar to 9 Jul 1955, including a shutdown from 10 Jun--20 Jun for rehearsals on the two "Hot Box" club numbers. Filming of the "Pet Me, Poppa" number took place from 7 Jul--9 Jul and concluded the lengthy 102 day rehearsal and shooting schedule of the production. According to the film's pressbook, the final budget for the film was "upwards of $5,500,000." HR news items included the names of the following actors and dancers, whose appearance in the released film has not been confirmed: Gloria Rhoads, Jerry LaZarre, Jean Corbett, Betty Jean Hansen, Jane Fischer, Cecile Rogers, Virginia Aldridge, Lorraine Crawford, Carey Leverette, Clark Lee, Wilson Morelli, Lance Avant, Lynn Bernay, Carmen Clifford, Beth Carter, Jean Goddall, Jan Hollar and Alicia Krug.
       The picture, shot entirely on the Goldwyn lot in Hollywood, projected a very stage-bound look, with even most exteriors filmed on soundstages. According to the pressbook for Guys and Dolls , art directors Oliver Smith and Joseph Wright deliberately altered the letters on the neon signs in the large Times Square set so that no real companies would be identifiable, but that logos resembled those of familiar brands such as Pepsi-Cola. For several minutes after the end of the opening credits, there is no dialogue, only an unfolding of images of New York street life enlivened by dancing, music and sound effects. This sequence is followed by the picture’s first song, "Fugue for Tinhorns."
       Several songs from the Broadway score were not included in the film: "My Time of Day," "I've Never Been in Love Before," "More I Cannot Wish You" and "A Bushel and a Peck," a production number performed at the Hot Box by "Miss Adelaide." "A Bushel and a Peck" was replaced in the film by Adelaide's "Pet Me, Poppa" number. Loesser wrote two new songs for the film, "Adelaide," sung by Frank Sinatra, and the romantic ballad "A Woman in Love," heard as both instrumental background and a song with Spanish lyrics sung by Renee Renor and English lyrics sung by Brando and Simmons in the film's Havana sequence. Although Brando sang "Luck Be a Lady" in the film, Sinatra later became associated with the song and recorded a version for his 1963 Reprise Musical Repertory Theatre album.
       The film retained much of the "Runyonesque" quality of the stage play, with the use of dialogue unique to Runyon's New York underworld characters. The film's pressbook included a glossary of popular Runyon terms such as "sucker bet," "marker" and "chump" to explain some of the film’s dialogue. Several of the characters in the story were also featured in other Runyon stories, some of which have been adapted to film. The character "Nicely-Nicely Johnson" was also featured in the 1942, Irving Reis-directed RKO production The Big Street , and "Harry the Horse" appeared in the 1942, Albert S. Rogell-directed Universal release Butch Minds the Baby and the 1943 Universal film It Ain't Hay , directed by Erle C. Kenton (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ).
       Although many contemporary and modern sources refer to "Sarah Brown" as "Sister Sarah" of the Salvation Army, she was called "Sergeant Brown" in the film, and the Save-A-Soul Mission was a fictionalized representation of the Salvation Army. The restaurant featured prominently in the story, “Mindy’s,” was a fictionalized representation of Lindy’s, a famous New York City restaurant noted for its cheesecake. The film's most famous line is uttered by Brando when Masterson realizes that Nathan Detroit has lured him into a sucker bet: "Daddy, I got cider in my ear." Modern sources add the following bit players to the cast: Franklyn Farnum, Tony Galento, Joe Gray, Sam Harris, Jack Perry, Frank Richards, Julian Rivero, Jeffrey Sayre and Harry Wilson.
       "The Goldwyn Girls" were featured in some of the early Goldwyn sound films, beginning with Whoopee! in 1930 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ) and had not been featured in many years. As publicity for the film, the six Goldwyn Girls went on a cross-country promotion tour and on 9 Oct 1955, the popular Ed Sullivan television show ran a 30-minute promotion of the film. According to a 13 Apr 1956 DV news item, Sinatra refused to appear with the rest of the cast on an Apr 1956 Sullivan program, contending that “TV is as much a business with him as motion pictures and he should be paid accordingly.” The article continued that Goldwyn considered a gratis appearance to promote the picture as part of their contract and that a film clip of Sinatra in the picture would be used on the Sullivan program.
       According to various news items, the 3 Nov 1955 New York premiere of the picture benefited the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital and Tuberculosis Research Laboratories, while the 22 Nov 1955 Los Angeles premiere was held to benefit the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. The film received several Academy Award nominations, including Cinematography (color, Harry Stradling), Art Direction-Set Decoration (color, Smith and Wright and Howard Bristol), Costume Design (color, Irene Sharaff) and Scoring of a Musical Picture (Jay Blackton and Cyril J. Mockridge). Although the film had premieres and road show engagements in Nov and Dec 1955, it was not given a wide national release until 1956. According to figures in the MPA , it became the highest grossing film of 1956, taking in over $9,000,000 at the box office. In 1967, Goldwyn sold the first television broadcast rights to Guys and Dolls , Hans Christian Anderson and Porgy and Bess to ABC for $1,000,000 each, the highest price paid for broadcast rights to that time. Guys and Dolls was ranked 23rd on AFI's list of the 25 Greatest Movie Musicals.
       Runyon's story was adapted for radio and broadcast on The Damon Runyon Theatre on 6 Feb 1946. Two successful Broadway revivals of the musical play have been staged: The first, in 1976, featured an all-African American cast and starred Robert Guillaume as Sky Masterson. The second, in 1992, starring Peter Gallagher and Nathan Lane, spawned both a London revival and a new North American road company production. In 2003, it was announced that Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, producers of the successful, recent screen adaptation of Chicago , would be making another screen adaptation of Guys and Dolls for Miramax Pictures, but, as of summer 2008, it had not been produced.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   5 Nov 1955   p. 22.
Box Office   12 Nov 1955.   
Daily Variety   27 Jan 1954.   
Daily Variety   4 Mar 1954.   
Daily Variety   2 Nov 1955   p. 3.
Daily Variety   13 Apr 1956.   
Film Daily   2 Nov 1955   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Feb 1955   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Mar 1955   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Mar 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Mar 1955   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Mar 1955   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Mar 1955   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Mar 1955   p. 5, 7.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Mar 1955   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Apr 1955   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Apr 1955   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   9 May 1955   pp. 4-5.
Hollywood Reporter   11 May 1955   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 1955   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Jun 1955   p. 8, 13.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jun 1955   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jun 1955   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 1955   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jul 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Oct 1955.   
Hollywood Reporter   11 Oct 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Nov 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jan 1967.   
Life   13 Jun 1955.   
Life   19 Sep 1955.   
Los Angeles Times   14 Mar 1954   Section IV, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times   20 Nov 1955.   
Los Angeles Examiner   7 Jul 1952.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   12 Nov 1955   p. 665.
Newsweek   7 Nov 1955.   
New York Times   6 Jun 1954.   
New York Times   9 Mar 1955.   
New York Times   4 Nov 1955   p. 26.
Saturday Review   12 Nov 1953.   
Variety   27 Jan 1954.   
Variety   2 Nov 1955   p. 6.
Wall Street Journal   9 Mar 1955.   

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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